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#2907515 - 02/06/18 03:34 AM Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets
Brien Offline
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Registered: 02/05/18
Posts: 4
For Christmas, my wife bought me an Epiphone ES-335 - my first electric guitar. I am an advanced beginner, maybe just touching being intermediate who has played acoustic only. After tuning, everything at the 12th fret would be sharp and especially at the first two frets. I brought the guitar to the Guitar Center where I informed them of the problem. They fixed the intonation at the 12th fret but most of the notes at the first two frets still play sharp - F, C, Am, etc... and certainly many single notes. I was told on another forum that I may be playing too hard, to use a lighter touch. Ok, I am working on that but it doesn't seem to always be the case but I recognize there have been differences in using a lighter touch. Someone else said the guitar needs to be played a while but that sounded odd to me and when I mentioned it to another friend who's been playing a long time, he gave me an odd look.

I am in the process of finding an experienced person to look into the issue and fix it but thought I would ask here for any insight as well. Thanks.

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#2907528 - 02/06/18 05:43 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Brien]
whitefang Offline
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First of all, I'd like to WELCOME you to these boards, BRIEN. smile

Now I'll just say I've never run across your particular problem before. At least not with a NEW guitar, but only after my Epi acoustic spent years stored in it's original cheezy case. Could many things be the cause, and I'd have to say there's plenty folks here who can help get to the bottom of the trouble.
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#2907569 - 02/06/18 08:10 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: whitefang]
Larryz Offline
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WELCOME ABOARD BRIEN!

Playing the guitar awhile is not a bad suggestion...since it's a new guitar with new strings they may stretch a bit. Tuning machines can cause problems or the nut cut could cause problems but I think Epi usually does a great job and they would have checked for these kinds of problems since the guitar is under warranty. You have only had it for two months and they need to test and fix it or give you a new one. If there is a problem.

On the other hand, since you named Am, not just notes but a chord, it could be in your playing style. Light string gauges and big hands or playing too close to the frets, etc., can cause notes to go out of tune. I would think that GC tested the guitar when setting the intonation and found no real problems with the guitar or they would have taken it back. You can have it checked by a tech at another store. If you have a good clip on tuner it will read every note no matter where you play it and you can check it yourself. Anyway good luck with it and I hope you find out what is causing the problem! cool


Edited by Larryz (02/06/18 08:10 AM)
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#2907591 - 02/06/18 09:35 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Larryz]
jimmac Offline
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Registered: 08/31/11
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Loc: Jackson, Michigan
I would do as Larry said and get an electronic tuner and check the notes up and down the neck. I bought an new epi SG and found the bridge saddle did not have enough travel adjustment to set intonation correctly on a couple strings. Factory said take it to their local repair guy. He tried setting it up and agreed. The bridge was just not set in the right place. They send me another new guitar that was better. With the adjustment all the way it just intonated. Jim

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#2907594 - 02/06/18 09:52 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: jimmac]
Winston Psmith Offline
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Similar experience with intonation on MIC Epi's. Mostly problems with intonation the 6th string; not enough room to back the bridge saddle up far enough, maybe another 64th of an inch would have done it.
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#2907616 - 02/06/18 11:51 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Winston Psmith]
Brien Offline
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Registered: 02/05/18
Posts: 4
Thanks all - I use an electronic tuner. Have two and did individual tests. High E is perfect all the way thru, the other strings have issues, especially D,G,B strings.

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#2908040 - 02/08/18 04:18 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Brien]
The Geoff Offline
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When I read of notes being sharp at the first frets I immediately want to check that the nut is cut to the proper height. If the grooves in a nut are left too high then the strings have to be pressed down hard and this can make the notes go sharp.

Filing the grooves in a nut is NOT an easy business. It can easily be overdone and that's the nut gone. My advice would be to get a luthier or set-up expert to check the nut & action generally.

G.
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#2908057 - 02/08/18 06:40 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Brien]
Winston Psmith Offline
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Originally Posted By: Brien
They fixed the intonation at the 12th fret but most of the notes at the first two frets still play sharp - F, C, Am, etc... and certainly many single notes.

I am in the process of finding an experienced person to look into the issue and fix it but thought I would ask here for any insight as well. Thanks.


My fault for not noticing this the first time I responded, but I have a pertinent question: Are you hearing the sharped notes as single notes, or when you try to play a chord? I ask this because I'm just now noticing your reference to Am.

No matter WHAT you may do to set the intonation properly, IME, there is no Guitar that will play exactly true, all the way up and down the neck on every note, and these slight variations in pitch are most noticeable when playing Chords. Check out any good video of Bill Frisell, who has a frightening sense of pitch. Even on his Klein Guitar (which is a fanned-fret, multi-scale Guitar designed in part to improve intonation), you'll notice that he bends the neck, ever so slightly, to try to bring certain notes into true pitch; oddly, the result is a sort of Chorus/De-tuning effect as the other notes of the Chord get bent in the process. I heard Frisell explaining this when someone asked him about that de-tuned sound.
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#2908081 - 02/08/18 09:40 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Winston Psmith]
d Offline
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I held back a while to see where this might lead b/c at 1st it seemed uncertain & then it seemed the situation's description got worse....
This is exactly why I never buy an instrument w/out playing it.
While modern production is more dependable than ever, things can still go wrong.
Where was this gtr bought & was it new ?
Unless you've altered it in any way (didn't note that in rereading) stop tryna fix it & just return it.
It's faulty for a new gtr to have these kinda issues off the rack.
Something is wrong with that gtr & while it may be fixed that shouldn't be what you have to do.

As far as things like what Winston mentions regarding Frissell, that may be true & Frissell's a great player but I can't imagine why a player'd wnant to have to bend the neck of a gtr to keep it in pitch.

There are many who disagree w/my advice but as one coming to electric instruments for the 1st time, I suggest you consider these things.
Modern factory production, as I said, is more standardized & dependable than ever before. Quality control may vary at diff facilities but the basic parts are machine made &, unless something serious goes wrong, the variables are your comfort w/the design & the electronics.

Once you get the gtr that you want, remember this: it's an electric instrument. Take advantage of that. Let the instrument & amp, etc, produce the sound for you.
Many contend you need to set gtrs up in ways that actually stress the instruments (overly heavy strings, for ex).
Set yer instruments up as lightly as possible for playing comfortably.
Also adapt yer playing to the electric. Develop a lighter touch so you don't stress the instrument & strings, etc, by over-playing tendencies as you might have developed in tryna express loudness or intensity.
Let the instrument do that for you & you'll have fewer problems.

However, in this case, I think you should just trade this number back in as defective.
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#2908110 - 02/08/18 12:23 PM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: d]
Winston Psmith Offline
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@d - I've found that changing string gauge, or type of strings can cause very slight shifts in the neck, that need to be compensated for by adjusting the intonation.

A lot of listeners, and players, have observed and commented on Frisell's neck-bending technique; at one point, I was seriously wondering what kind of Chorus effect he had to make that sound, and it appears that I wasn't alone!?!?! I have his instructional video, where he explains why he does it. I suspect most mere humans either can't hear, or aren't really listening for, the slight de-tuning that he's trying to correct for.

Back to the OP, I'm with you, I'd take it back, but then I'd sit down with a few of them, to see if the problem is widespread. To the same degree that modern manufacturing techniques allow for consistency throughout a production line, the reverse is also true: if there's an issue with the scaling or bridge placement on one Guitar, it's very likely going to turn up in the whole line, as well.
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#2908285 - 02/09/18 07:46 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Winston Psmith]
d Offline
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Registered: 03/20/01
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String gauge changes can definitely alter the intonation of gtrs but I'm not sure that string types can do that...(?).

As far as Frisell's neck bending, which I hadn't actually noticed before, I'm not saying anything beyond the fact that any such technique would seem most applicable to single notes rather than chords, which is where one would expect precise tuning to apply.
There's a definite & demonstrable effect of the ear to accept pitch variations of melodic notes that differs from the acceptance of harmonic/chordal notes... & I don't understand how bending the neck might work to adjust the intonation of a chord.
It would seem to affect all strings, not just 1.
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#2908323 - 02/09/18 10:47 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: d]
Scott Fraser Offline
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I've seen Frissell do the neck warp on Teles & Strats &, as a listener, I understood the technique to be a form of vibrato.
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#2908337 - 02/09/18 11:47 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Scott Fraser]
Brien Offline
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Registered: 02/05/18
Posts: 4
So... I had the opportunity to let a real guitar player look at my guitar and play it. He thought it was fine. He told me it is not uncommon for acoustic players to have issues playing electric. He mentioned I should learn to play with a lighter touch after seeing me handle the guitar. He also said I should probably try a heavier string if the issue continues.

I have to admit, my jaw dropped when he played it. He made the guitar sing. He also mentioned that finger placement on the fret board can sometimes make notes sound off as well as stretching strings on electric being much easier/sensitive to do than on an acoustic And, he said not to try and attach what I was use to hearing with the acoustic onto the electric.

In other words... Operator Error. I am fine with that. At least I'm not going crazy. I can work on my technique. Looking forward to it. And, lastly... thanks to everyone who took the time to add their insight. I appreciate it.


Edited by Brien (02/09/18 11:48 AM)

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#2908378 - 02/09/18 01:31 PM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: d]
Winston Psmith Offline
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Originally Posted By: d
String gauge changes can definitely alter the intonation of gtrs but I'm not sure that string types can do that...(?).

There's a definite & demonstrable effect of the ear to accept pitch variations of melodic notes that differs from the acceptance of harmonic/chordal notes... & I don't understand how bending the neck might work to adjust the intonation of a chord.
It would seem to affect all strings, not just 1.


@d - going from round wounds to flatwounds will change things; flats have a slightly higher string tension, even at the same gauge.

I don't claim to fully understand what Frisell is hearing, but if you can find Bill Frisell's video "The Guitar Artistry of Bill Frisell", he talks about it on that video, in terms of the notes within a chord. Whatever the case, it is a very cool sound.
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#2908382 - 02/09/18 01:36 PM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Brien]
d Offline
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Registered: 03/20/01
Posts: 6978
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Originally Posted By: Brien
So... I had the opportunity to let a real guitar player look at my guitar and play it. He thought it was fine. He told me it is not uncommon for acoustic players to have issues playing electric. He mentioned I should learn to play with a lighter touch after seeing me handle the guitar. He also said I should probably try a heavier string if the issue continues.

I have to admit, my jaw dropped when he played it. He made the guitar sing. He also mentioned that finger placement on the fret board can sometimes make notes sound off as well as stretching strings on electric being much easier/sensitive to do than on an acoustic And, he said not to try and attach what I was use to hearing with the acoustic onto the electric.

In other words... Operator Error. I am fine with that. At least I'm not going crazy. I can work on my technique. Looking forward to it. And, lastly... thanks to everyone who took the time to add their insight. I appreciate it.

facepalm grin rawk rawk \
& rawk
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#2908535 - 02/10/18 10:36 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Brien]
Caevan O'Shite Offline
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Originally Posted By: Brien
So... I had the opportunity to let a real guitar player look at my guitar and play it. He thought it was fine. He told me it is not uncommon for acoustic players to have issues playing electric. He mentioned I should learn to play with a lighter touch after seeing me handle the guitar. He also said I should probably try a heavier string if the issue continues.

I have to admit, my jaw dropped when he played it. He made the guitar sing. He also mentioned that finger placement on the fret board can sometimes make notes sound off as well as stretching strings on electric being much easier/sensitive to do than on an acoustic And, he said not to try and attach what I was use to hearing with the acoustic onto the electric.

In other words... Operator Error. I am fine with that. At least I'm not going crazy. I can work on my technique. Looking forward to it. And, lastly... thanks to everyone who took the time to add their insight. I appreciate it.


Acoustic players and bassists tend to love the string-gauges that I favor- that is, rather medium/heavy strings.

I put DR Pure Blues .011" - .050" strings on my Les Paul; I think they're the best strings for Gibson Les Paul, ES-335, etc. type guitars (seems Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes would agree). Fat, full, warm, and robust sounding, with a GREAT feel. Pure/solid nickel-wrap on the wound-strings, with round-cores (as opposed to hex).

I highly recommend that you try a set of them on your 335, Brien! You'd probably also like the 11 - 50 set that I like. Right in-between being loose-'n'-bendy "electric" and responsively-snappy "acoustic".
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#2908545 - 02/10/18 11:48 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Caevan O'Shite]
skipclone 1 Offline
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Hi Brien-welcome to the forum.
Actually, I`m still having questions.
You said your friend played your guitar and thought it was fine.
But earlier you said that you tested it with two different tuners and there were issues?
Both of those can`t be right.
I`m not seeing how playing technique makes enough difference to throw off a guitar tuner. Just my opinion of course.
I would say, adjust your technique as recommended, but listen carefully as you`re playing. Keep the option of returning the guitar while it`s under warranty.
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#2908769 - 02/11/18 02:20 PM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Winston Psmith]
d Offline
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Originally Posted By: Winston Psmith
I don't claim to fully understand what Frisell is hearing, but if you can find Bill Frisell's video "The Guitar Artistry of Bill Frisell", he talks about it on that video, in terms of the notes within a chord. Whatever the case, it is a very cool sound.
Working my way though those clips (which are a set of 5 over on YT = https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+guitar+artistry+of+bill+frisell) which seem to have been issued on DVD abt 2K06
I'm only abt 1/2 through the set but the section Mr Psmith's referencing seems to be abt 11:43 ~ 12:50 in pt 2.
If I understand him correctly, he says it's unconscious & then seems to say it then causes him to have to compensate for the effect on the neck, so why idk ...
He may address it elsewhere, too... I'm still looking.
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#2908894 - 02/12/18 05:57 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: skipclone 1]
Caevan O'Shite Offline
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Originally Posted By: skipclone 1
Hi Brien-welcome to the forum.
Actually, I`m still having questions.
You said your friend played your guitar and thought it was fine.
But earlier you said that you tested it with two different tuners and there were issues?
Both of those can`t be right.
I`m not seeing how playing technique makes enough difference to throw off a guitar tuner. Just my opinion of course.
I would say, adjust your technique as recommended, but listen carefully as you`re playing. Keep the option of returning the guitar while it`s under warranty.


Some players, especially acoustic players switching to electric and lighter strings, can have trouble with pressing down entirely too hard on the strings and making them play sharp, particularly at the 1st and 2nd frets. This most likely the problem here.

But of course, you are right, Skip, that if there IS a problem with the guitar itself, the warranty should be taken advantage of while it's valid, and NOT voided by any modifications.
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#2908917 - 02/12/18 06:40 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Caevan O'Shite]
Larryz Offline
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+1 I have a buddy that plays 12string acoustic. His fingers are so strong that he bends notes sharp pressing too hard, when trying to play on a 6strings acoustic. He cannot play at all on electrics with lighter strings LOL! cool
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#2908922 - 02/12/18 06:47 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Larryz]
d Offline
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I think if yer able to do that w/ the strings just by playing, the nut's too high, which in itself would be a flaw.
It might also be that sometimes a player's finger pressure pushes the string laterally a bit.
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#2908999 - 02/12/18 11:06 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: d]
Brien Offline
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I've been practicing and practicing and working on a lighter touch. I think, to a degree, I'm getting better. The guitar has 10-46 strings. My F and Am and C aren't playing as sharp but still a touch. So, I guess this was me all along. When I change the strings out, I'll see what's what. Two people have looked at it and say it's me.

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#2909262 - 02/13/18 09:13 AM Re: Lots of sharp notes on the first two frets [Re: Brien]
d Offline
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Make sure the probs not w/the gtr even if only partially, though, before you settle.
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